Spring Postcard: Mets need more than health to hang in race
Those are the words freshly painted above the doorway to the Mets clubhouse in Port St. Lucie, Fla., surrounded by the outline of a blue shield. The slogan is not catchy, but it is practical, a response to a season in which the Mets felt like voodoo dolls, pins sticking out of every body part. All teams suffer injuries, but the Mets suffered something more like a plague, with as many as 13 players on the disabled list at one time. They were not just losing scrubs, either. On September 1 the Mets had $88 million of their payroll sitting in the trainer's room. The main culprit was bad luck, but the medical staff has come under almost as much scrutiny as general manager
The emphasis in spring training last year was on shooting the ball the other way, in part to create better all-around hitters, and in part to take advantage of the massive gap in right-center at Citi Field. The philosophy worked in one sense, as the Mets led the National League with a .270 batting average, but they might have taken the concept too far because they finished with a major-league low 95 home runs. The team with the next fewest homers, the Giants, managed 122. The Mets believe they are better for the experience, having shown that they can punch outside pitches to the opposite field, but this spring Manuel and batting coach
Can there be such a thing? At this time a year ago the Mets were a popular World Series pick. Now they are dismissed as a punching bag. The reason is that they lost 90 games last season, but it's hard to take anything away from that, given how much of the team was missing. The Mets don't actually look so different than the group that everybody was touting last spring. Reyes is back at the top of the order and Santana is back at the top of the rotation.
While the Phillies have
Since his first full season in the major leagues, Wright had never hit fewer than 27 home runs, and then last year he dropped all the way down to 10. The Mets believe it was an aberration, and so do scouts who have followed Wright closely. His numbers fell because of the enormous ballpark, the mandate to hit to right, and the lack of protection in the lineup. Playing home games at Citi Field, Wright may never hit 33 homers again, as he did in 2008. But the Mets expect him to be back over 20 this season with a ton of RBI doubles.
The National League does not have many lineups with as much star power 1-5 as the Mets. When healthy, they can go from Reyes to